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The Craft > Where do you get ideas?

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message 1: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Moulton | 38 comments Some time ago, I covered the basic steps to writing and publishing. I guess you could call it a beginner's guide. However, early on, I said it all starts with an idea. The question still remains though, where do people get ideas from?

That's a fair question, to be honest. It is also one that applies to anyone who creates anything - from musicians, to scientists, to artists, to film makers and writers. The short answer is one word - imagination! You have to have thoughts and ideas to generate more thoughts and ideas. Sounds simple enough, right?

Indeed, it is simple. Creativity comes in a variety of forms and at varied levels. For some people, they overflow with it. For others, it is more latent and needs to be brought out. I think much of that level depends on inspiration too. Folks get inspired by a quote, melody, weather pattern, life challenge or any other number of seemingly mundane things.

Personally speaking, I ALWAYS have my mind going a mile a minute. However, I could never recall all of my ideas. So, what do I do? Well, because my mind never stops, I figure it is safe to say that in order to be creative you have to be a little messed up, so to speak. In other words, you need to, at the very least, consider possibilities and motivations. Usually, this begins with a nugget of an idea or a simple question. Hopefully, the more you ponder it, the more you build upon it. Eventually, you may have a raging inferno of thought. I tend to consider the infinite possibilities in the universe and ask, "what if..." a lot!!! Also, every single nugget that comes to me, usually they are seemingly unrelated, I write down. Maybe some notions will never be used. Maybe several will prove to have a common link. That's the fun of creating! You can do as little or as much as fits your needs. The real key is never to stop thinking!

What do you create? How do you create it? How does it apply to your life? Can it apply and be of interest to others? These questions are what makes up the crux of the goal of getting ideas. Now I ask you, where do you get ideas? What do you do with those ideas? How do you record them? Either way, and whatever your answers, make sure you share your ideas with the world, after all, they will be a part of the legacy that is you!


message 2: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Glynn (nancyglynn) It's strange, but they just come to me. Yes, they derive from past experience, but it all boils down to human dynamics and how we tick. In my current WIP, I got the plot from my husband's line of work, organ recovery, and centered it around two surgical coordinators, one of which was trained by the other years ago and has surpassed him, but are falling in love. I've had my husband's help in creating the OR scenes of the technical issues, but the rest is imagination and intuition of how love grows between two people. The undercurrent of all my stories is love, but our personal theme will always be part of every story; hence voice. I love watching TV shows with hot drama or movies and will get ideas from that. And also lots of people have "ideas," but what to do with them? That doesn't make one a writer. A woman my husband works with told him she had lots of ideas and would love to tell me about them so that I could write them. Huh? That's not how it works. My ideas need to come from my heart and soul, my experiences. I could never be a ghost writer, I guess. Anyway, that's my thought on ideas. :)


message 3: by Dennis (new)

Dennis Moulton | 38 comments Thanks for the input. Of course, different artists eress ideas different ways. Maybe your husband's coworker might be better served expressing her ideas in, I don't know, song or painting? Part of it for sure is a personal connection. What you create has to be your own, even as a ghost writer, your own style amd flair is bound to shine through. Again, thanks for the input :-)


message 4: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Glynn (nancyglynn) Sure thing! :)


message 5: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Everywhere. Things I read in the news, dreams, songs, people walking down the street, random thoughts that occur to me while washing dishes or walking. I currently have over 400 entries in my “Story clip file”, so no worries about me running out of ideas in the near future.


message 6: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 210 comments At its core, creativity is about making connections between two or more things. We take concept A, which might be a thing, a person, an idea, a circumstance, etc and we find a way to connect that concept with concept B, which might also be a thing, a person, an idea, etc.

And sometimes we might throw in a few other connections too. Concepts C, D and E are jumping up and down right now with their hands in the air. Pick me! Pick me!

Star Trek was "wagon train in space". Star Wars started as an idea to meld science fiction and fairy tales. The Terminator started with a dream that James Cameron had about a robotic assassin. Avatar is Pocahontas in space.

In fact, nearly every work of art starts out as X meets Y, in some form or another.

Creative people do at least two things that non-creative people don't. First, they explore connections that seem ludicrous. They give every idea the chance to blossom. Nothing is too silly.

Secondly, they ask the question of power. They don't ask "will this work?" which invites the binary answer of yes or no. Instead they ask "how can I make this work?" which invites answers.

Once we have a first connection, we can start to layer on the secondary and tertiary connections until we have a complete work.

Fr'instance in my first book "Love, Death and Tea", I started with the concept of "all bad guys have some good in them". This is about as simple as it gets. Concept A (villainous characters) meets concept B (doing good). I then asked the question "which is the most villainous character that is least likely to do good?". This led me to the idea of a zombie main character.

Then I asked the question of power. Every time I came up with a problem I asked myself "how do I solve this?" and not "will this work?"

How do we like a zombie? Well, we have to give him the power of speech. How do we give a zombie the power of speech? His girlfriend gives him a potion. How does she make the potion? Well, what if she was a witch? How did she get to be a witch? What if everyone turned into a creature from fantasy and horror?

And on it goes. Collect ideas, make connections, ask the question of power. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


message 7: by Wendy (last edited Jul 28, 2016 10:26AM) (new)

Wendy Goerl | 137 comments The obvious (especially in SF, though it can be applied to all genres) is to look at what is and ask "What if?" "What if" the allies didn't crack Enigma? "What if" Hitler had been a success as a painter? What if the laws of the universe don't allow for the creation of an atomic bomb?

Of course, the problem with "what if" is when the "what if" starts from somebody else's trademark and/or copyright. I've got this wonderful world I created around a "what if" involving Marvel's Archangel, but even if Marvel was supportive, it's grown too different from the Marvel Universe to fit in with what they're publishing. So I've got this beautiful crystal of a story and somehow have to excise the seed it grew on and put something else in its place that's similar enough to fit, and different enough to avoid IP-infringement issues.


message 8: by Fraser (new)

Fraser Sherman | 48 comments I've had ideas for IP-protected characters. Occasionally I can make them into something else, if not I just let them lie fallow.


message 9: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 347 comments I think I have more ideas than I will ever have time to write about. Ideas are the easy part for me: the challenge comes in sifting through and deciding which are marketable, and then making the time to write.


message 10: by Clarence (new)

Clarence Prince (clarence-prince) | 12 comments Truly, this is my belief; an idea is spiritually inspired for development, and once it comes we should use it without hesitation.


message 11: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) I agree with Ken, I have way too many ideas to use them all. I keep track of them in my story clip file, and then when I'm ready to write my next book, I start sifting through them to decide which to use. I'll generally use a few in one book, but even if I use four per book, I currently have over four hundred ideas in my notebook, which translates to another hundred books.


message 12: by Evalyn (last edited Jul 30, 2016 09:18AM) (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 4 comments It's been my experience that really good ideas for a book don't come along every day so I try to start developing them right away. A few times I've had what I felt were good ideas as I mulled things over before falling asleep at night and I did not get up and write them down. And, as you can guess, the ideas were gone by morning! So, jotting them down in a notebook is essential.


message 13: by Jim (last edited Jul 30, 2016 09:45AM) (new)

Jim Vuksic An idea is born out of inspiration. Occasionally, someone or something inspires one to create something new and different - something not quite like what is already available or achievable.

A story is the end-product of a seed planted by inspiration and allowed to germinate within the mind of a writer who nourishes it until it is ripe for harvesting, processed and then shared with others.


message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve Ross | 3 comments I get most of my ideas from K-Mart. I usually buy in bulk, giving me a double discount.


message 15: by B. (new)

B. Roman (bromanbooks) | 12 comments Clarence wrote: "Truly, this is my belief; an idea is spiritually inspired for development, and once it comes we should use it without hesitation."
Clarence, this is so true especially for my books. Only one story has been "conjured up" (not that that's bad, mind you), but I have worked more passionately on the books that have sprung from a vision or inspiration that came from that spiritual energy outside of my own head. They might be tough books to sell to the masses, but I'm proud of the way they have manifested.


message 16: by Doris (new)

Doris (Onceupona) | 2 comments Most authors would agree that novels usually start with a "what if". I usually wind up putting that together with a "who". I tend to write stories that come from my characters and the situations in which they find themselves. I find my characters by listening. Everyone you know has a story - it may not be their story. It might be a grandparent, a friend, an ancestor, but if you ask and you listen, I'll bet you hear some really good, idea-producing stories.


message 17: by Eric (last edited Jul 31, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Eric Westfall (eawestfall) | 183 comments Okay, I guess I'm the "odd man out." (So, Eric, what else is gnu with you?)

My books/stories normally start with a title and an opening sentence/paragraph, and normally the ending...either the last sentence/paragraph, or at the least the feeling I hope to engender at that point.

By way of example, I'm working on a gay Regency set in a slightly alternate England. The first line and the title are the same, and although it's been refined a bit, I had the words for the second paragraph at the same time. Shortly after that I wrote the final chapter. Then back to finish chapter 1. After that came the process of getting from A to Z.

And an integral part of that is knowing who the two men are who are the leads. I usually have names for them around the same time as title and ending. But the majority of my ideas (completed, in progress, or jotted down for future work) seem to just pop into my head. I can't honestly recall any which were triggered by a specific event, or person.

And as someone has mentioned up above, I have enough of the jotted down ideas that I could write for years, full-time, just to "catch up."

Anyway, just my USD .02.

Eric


message 18: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 95 comments Webllena wrote: "Ideas are around us,every second,every day...Inspiration is 50%,the rest you can get at just one moment"

Lol!


message 19: by Eva (last edited Aug 01, 2016 07:31AM) (new)

Eva John | 12 comments Eric wrote: "Okay, I guess I'm the "odd man out." (So, Eric, what else is gnu with you?)

My books/stories normally start with a title and an opening sentence/paragraph, and normally the ending...either the las..."


I love to write a powerful opening sentence, but find your idea to incorporate the final sentence brilliant! Kudos, as looking at my recently published book I know that strategy would've been effective. I might just use that with my next novel if you don't mind. That aside, and I have no prob with the LGBTQ community, I have to ask why you felt it necessary to emphasize the fact that you work on a "gay" Regency set, instead of just saying a Regency set? We like you either way.


message 20: by Eva (last edited Aug 01, 2016 07:31AM) (new)

Eva John | 12 comments I loved to watch "Columbo" growing up, the reruns as an adult even more. Steven Spielberg actually wrote an episode called "Murder by the Book" in which the brilliant author of a duo writing team was known to jot every idea down the moment it occurred to him. They found ideas on matchbook covers, scraps of paper, gum wrappers, napkins, etc. all over his home and office - that's actually what solved the case, lol. It stuck with me and I find that I do the same thing. Thank goodness, because I often forget my train of thought.


message 21: by Eric (new)

Eric Westfall (eawestfall) | 183 comments Maria wrote: "Eric wrote: "Okay, I guess I'm the "odd man out." (So, Eric, what else is gnu with you?)

My books/stories normally start with a title and an opening sentence/paragraph, and normally the ending...e..."


Thanks for the nice words, Maria.

However, even though I got hooked on Regency novels when I "met" Georgette Heyer back in 1960, and have read/enjoyed numerous Regencies since then...although I go flip-flip-flip through the 37 pages of a single straight sex scene in Regencies written more recently *s*...the word "Regency" carries with it an established connotation: the actual background of a specific time in English history, and with a man and a woman as the main characters.

Since my guys could never do what they do in the "real"Regency period, I think it's appropriate to identify the different Regency genre in which I write. And my eventually four novels (2 done, 2 in progress), and one longish short story in the final tweaking stage, are set in "Another England"...which has a key historical difference from the real world: Shortly after the Restoration, Charles II (for a valid reason) gets Parliament to repeal the sodomy laws and make it extremely difficult to go back and reinstate them.

Sorry, maybe TMI.

Anyway, I don't consider it so much emphasis, as honesty in identifying the overall genre (MM Romance) and sub-genres in which I write.

>ka-thump< *sound of Eric getting off mini-soapbox*


message 22: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Connell (sharonkconnell) | 114 comments The voices in my head. They won't leave me alone. I have characters from my very first book telling me what they want me to write about. LOL Right now, I have so many ideas that I've had to write them down in a notebook for future use. Getting the idea is not the problem. :D


message 23: by Hákon (new)

Hákon Gunnarsson | 16 comments Maria wrote: "I loved to watch "Columbo" growing up, the reruns as an adult even more. Steven Spielberg actually wrote an episode called "Murder by the Book" in which the brilliant author of a duo writing team w..."

I didn't know that about Columbo, but I really liked the show. It might be fun to see that episode sometime.


message 24: by Sally (new)

Sally (brasscastle) | 261 comments Eric wrote: "a key historical difference from the real world: Shortly after the Restoration, Charles II (for a valid reason) gets Parliament to repeal the sodomy laws and make it extremely difficult to go back and reinstate them. ..."

From what I've learned in my minimal study of this period (research into period music popular with the common man), this concept would not be out of character for Charles II. He was a patron of one Thomas D'Urfey (originally Tom Durfey), who published (among many other things) a music book called "Wit and Mirth: Or, Pills to Purge Melancholy," rife with bawdy songs and ballads. Evidently Charles II liked this kind of low-life music and song, and most of it became common musical fare in all the pubs and taverns, waterfronts and bawdy houses of the day. My musical group performs some of this music on fife and drum, but without lyrics so as not to damage the tender young minds of our family audiences. A lot of this music is one hell of a lot of fun to hear and to play. Puritan: it is NOT! ;-)


message 25: by Pami (new)

Pami L. | 12 comments Sharon wrote: "The voices in my head. They won't leave me alone. I have characters from my very first book telling me what they want me to write about. LOL Right now, I have so many ideas that I've had to write t..." a
you should take your first book and come up with a second book that goes along with your first book.


message 26: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Lair | 34 comments I fear that I ran out of ideas. I have character sketches and outlines, but I don't have cohesive stories to put them in. I look at some of the authors here with lists of books and I wonder how you do it. I know that there are books of story ideas and first lines, but I can't get past a few pages.
Help. I like this and I like being part of this group, but I have nothing (except the blog-loads of posts there, but I don't know if you're reading it.)
I'm following this thread because I wish to know to.


message 27: by Janee' (new)

Janee' Butterfield | 6 comments J.J. wrote: "I fear that I ran out of ideas. I have character sketches and outlines, but I don't have cohesive stories to put them in. I look at some of the authors here with lists of books and I wonder how you..."
I can understand your frustration and I think writers block is one of the biggest challenges we face as authors. Many experienced successful authors go through this as well, and thinking of George R.R. Martin off the top of my head.

I just finished my first novel in a series and wondering how I am going to do this all over again with the second. In addition to ideas, I think another big challenge for me is TIME. Let's face it, for most of us authors, we still have to hold down a day time job to pay the bills.

I can offer you a few tips that have helped me along the way with ideas. I have joined a creative writers group as I find that brainstorming with others can do wonders. Knowledge is power.

Secondly, I take a train into work and jot ideas down with anything that comes to mind in a writers journal. It can be any obscure or interesting thought. For example, I had worn an eye mask while taking a nap in the daytime... When I woke up, I could see a pair of black boots near the side of my bed from underneath the mask. My mind then started running as a horror novel author... What if it really wasn't my husbands boots and an intruder? Would I continue to lay there in hopes the intruder goes away? Anyway, you get my point.

The third tip is to enjoy a glass of wine (or whatever your vice is) and read many good blogs by your favorite authors for inspiration. The more you read and talk about books, the more knowledge you can obtain in your own writing.

Last, but certainly not least... Enjoy life experiences because many of the characters in my book are a mix of people I've had to deal with.

Best of luck to you and keep us posted on your writing efforts!
Caught In Cryptic


message 28: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Pami wrote: "I fear that I ran out of ideas. I have character sketches and outlines, but I don't have cohesive stories to put them in."

What are your interests? What do you like to write? What do you like to read? What things intrigue you in the news? What music inspires you? Keep your phone or a notepad next to the bed and write down your dreams or other thoughts during the night. Ride public transit or go to the mall and look for interesting people. Think about their backstories and their futures. Browse premade book covers for ideas that inspire you. Ask yourself 'what if?'


message 29: by Michael (last edited Aug 03, 2016 03:25AM) (new)

Michael | 6 comments I guess I’m a grumpy old sod who hates seeing people at the top of the ladder get away with things in life. I always wanted to write a crime thriller, so ten years ago I invented my own little world. I build up a bunch of characters, who simply sat around waiting for something to happen.

Book 1 in the series involved a board of directors who were up to their ears in corruption – sound Familiar? How did I get back at them [idea] I introduced a serial killer who was systematically eliminating them one at a time.

Book 2 involves pure greed and lust. My idea came from watching a late night chat show one night and involved a well-known 76 year old celebrity who was stinking rich, but was in the middle of divorcing his 26 year old wife. There was plenty scope, and plenty of twists and turns in which the story line could go.

Book 3 I have three or four ideas, but I think I know in which direction it's heading. A crime writer should never be short of ideas!


message 30: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 132 comments J.J. wrote: "I fear that I ran out of ideas. I have character sketches and outlines, but I don't have cohesive stories to put them in. I look at some of the authors here with lists of books and I wonder how you..."

Stories are not hard to come by.

Pick an interesting idea (depending on genre), say, Man falls in love with his dog. Pick an ending. Think of interesting obstacles to reaching the ending. Think of solutions.


message 31: by Steve (new)

Steve Downes (stevedownes) | 8 comments I've never had a problem with coming up with ideas, my problem is being a middle aged man who wasted a lot of his youth (having too much of a good time ...don't ask :) ) I feel I'm going to run out of time to write all the things I really want to ... mortality sucks


message 32: by S.Q. (new)

S.Q. Orpin (sqorpin) | 20 comments When I started my first novel I was pushing myself to write. I had a basic idea of the character and followed a guideline of how to create a generic romance. As I started to write, I fell in love with my characters and allowed them to step ouside the lines of what was expected in a typical novel. One book turned into six, with 6 more on the way to address backstories of my most intriguing side characters. Now I want to submit to Harlequin (more guidelines to follow) so I'm taking a minor character from my series and giving her a three-part series. I guess for me what was important was to establish the big outcome I wanted to achieve, and just start writing. Maybe start with the characters you have sketched out and address how they would react to the given situation. For your first draft, I would write randomly, and forget details and forced dialogue. Once the novel is done, go back and fill those in and it will seem natural and quite exciting. Good luck, and don't stop writing :)


message 33: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Steve wrote: "I've never had a problem with coming up with ideas, my problem is being a middle aged man who wasted a lot of his youth (having too much of a good time ...don't ask :) ) I feel I'm going to run out of time to write all the things I really want to..."

I wrote my first novel when I was twelve and have been writing ever since, and I am still afraid that I'm going to run out of time before I get everything written...


message 34: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Connell (sharonkconnell) | 114 comments Pami wrote: "Sharon wrote: "The voices in my head. They won't leave me alone. I have characters from my very first book telling me what they want me to write about. LOL Right now, I have so many ideas that I've..."

I'm on my fourth novel now, Pami. Each story stands alone, although some of the same characters have made their way into the other books.


message 35: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Pierson | 3 comments Ideas are easy; I get a hundred of them a day, but the majority of them are just bad. A zodiac based myth system about fast food. A narrative told from the point of view of a disinterested third party (interesting idea technically, but if the narrator doesn't care about the events of the story, why should the reader?). a Sea Monkey Love story. A story about a race car driver that survives an accident... you get the idea.

Still, a good idea can change your whole day, and alter (or start) the book that gets completed. I have no idea where those good ideas come from, though.

Sometimes it's about desperation: I was 4 days into NaNoWriMo and was forcing myself to write a novel I'd painstakingly outlined when I got sick of writing it. I was already almost three days behind the minimum word count. I threw it away and began writing about a sabotaged spaceship which turned into the novel I've just finished editing.

There are times when a good idea comes from something someone says, or something I hear on the radio or see on television. I once wrote a piano ballad in five minutes about hopeless love in a big city when I saw an image from Quantum Leap where the main character was playing a piano.

I guess what I'm saying is that the ideas come after the inspiration, and I have no idea when the inspiration is going to suddenly grab me. That's why I write every day and why I read and listen and examine everything constantly, because that random piece of masking tape on the edge of my desk might spark a novel's worth of great ideas.


message 36: by Paul (new)

Paul Tarr | 10 comments Eric: With fiction similar to you I think of a beginning or ending for my idea/inspiration first then create the other end. The hard part then becomes filling in the middle. With non-fiction its different. I start by creating an list of everything I want to include then try to organize everything into a coherent outline before I start writing. I find writing non-fiction much easier than fiction.

Thomas: I agree ideas come easy but as you noted most of them are bad!

In general most of my ideas come from either whatever interests me at the moment or an experience that I want to work through. For example, I was appalled by a case of incest child abuse when the victim was blamed. I worked through my feelings by writing a mystery novel with this as theme.

Since my interests are eclectic I have no genre I stick to. In fact I don't write exclusively fiction. Since I'm disabled and like to travel I currently researching a book on accessible travel. While doing that I've come up with an idea I like for a science fiction series. Ideas come if you just let your mind wander (unfortunately I don't remember all these ideas without writing myself notes which is difficult when you only have one useful hand).


message 37: by Mary (new)

Mary (maryhagen14yahoocom) | 28 comments My ideas come out of nowhere. Some are so unrealistic I drop them immediately. Most of the time, I think they come from inspiration. I do agree that some stories just don't hold my interest and I drop them. When I do settle on an idea, I always have the ending and beginning in mind.


message 38: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Pierson | 3 comments Mary wrote: " When I do settle on an idea, I always have the ending and beginning in mind. "

That's awesome! I never know where the story is going to end until I'm at least half way through it. I usually end up starting at the beginning (or somewhere close), but I never see the end when I start. It usually takes me half the book; by then I've gotten to know the characters and the setting enough to see an end; though it usually changes at least twice.


message 39: by Charles (last edited Aug 08, 2016 10:24AM) (new)

Charles | 26 comments Where do I get ideas? Why I just google, "The Idea Dump, Story Central, or Island of the Buried Booksellers," and voila... ,my next novel appears in full outline.
Thank you, Stephen King for that one--and it's true, as Mister King says, story ideas come from anywhere and everywhere., On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (page 37) "your job is to recognize them when they show up."
Then, you start writing, the ride gets fired up, and you wind up in places you never saw coming, with characters who have their own opinions, and, well, just buckle your seat belt.


message 40: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Goerl | 137 comments J.J. wrote: "I fear that I ran out of ideas. I have character sketches and outlines, but I don't have cohesive stories to put them in. I look at some of the authors here with lists of books and I wonder how you..."

"If life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

Sounds as if you like creating people more than plots. So play tourist: have a narrator walk around interacting with these people in a fictitious travelogue.


message 41: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Goerl | 137 comments Y'know, it occurs to me that people are taking this question two different ways. I took it to mean "What inspired the stuff that eventually became your book?" A lot of people here seem to be taking it as "How do you get around writer's block?"--which is a COMPLETELY different question. (And one of my pet peeves is people asking a different question than the one they want answered--I've had too many people answer a different question than the one I asked because they ASSuMEd I meant something different than what I said.)

If you're saying, "I can't think of anything to write about," then either your "inner procrastinator" is ruling the roost and hiding all your ideas from you, or your "internal editor" is shooting ideas down prematurely. Either way, the solution is to write SOMETHING-- even if it's "I don't know what to write about" 50 million times.


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